ProductCamp St. Louis 2016 Brings St. Louis Innovators Together
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The St. Louis Product Management Group concluded ProductCamp Saturday, February 27 at Webster University in St. Louis. The 5th annual event featured sessions focusing on the importance of design, product strategy and development, going to market and more, organized via formats like town hall meetings, roundtables, panels and ‘Ask the Expert’ presentations.
Free, non-profit and user-driven, the day-long experience is billed as a collaborative and professional ‘unconference’, meaning the participants choose the theme of the event. Registrants are invited to submit a topic in their area of expertise for discussion. The morning of the event, registrants vote for their top four sessions. This year 49 topics were proposed and 30 of those were chosen. The toughest part might be choosing which of the 30 sessions to attend.
Building it Out
Started in Silicon Valley in 2008, ProductCamp’s popularity has grown in eight short years to almost 50 cities throughout the world in North America, Europe, Australia and India.
Jeff Lash, President of St. Louis Product Management Group, had traveled to participate in other ProductCamps and decided to bring the ‘unconference’ event to St. Louis. So in 2010, Jeff partnered with Marc Bowers, co-founder of ProductCamp St. Louis and the Product Development Management Association to make it happen.
“The interest and growth in ProductCamp St. Louis is reflective of what’s going on in the St. Louis business-development community,” says Marc Bowers. “ProductCamp represents the importance of community. Everyone comes away with more than they arrived with.”
Variety is Key
The founding principle of ProductCamp is to unite ‘anyone who builds, designs, markets or manages a product or service.’ While other ProductCamp host cities focus on technology and product management, St. Louis aims to connect even more sectors and people.
“Our event attracts a broader base of people and industries,” says Jeff Lash. “It brings so many more people and opportunities together that otherwise wouldn’t have happened.”
Dale Furtwengler, board member for St. Louis Product Management Group and volunteer coordinator for ProductCamp, attended his first in 2013 and has returned every year.
“I’ve gained knowledge, friends and exposure through the unconference,” he says. “It’s the energy and the desire to make things happen that is so motivating and contagious.”
Is ProductCamp right for you? The short answer: Yes. The list of attendees includes B2B, B2C, non-profit organizations, startups and Fortune 500 companies. Everyone who attends, upwards of 400 people this year and last, is there to learn, experience, participate and grow. Session coordinator Shelly Azar says, “It’s the exchange of information that attracts so many participants and keeps them coming back.”